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Has anyone recorded a vocalist in a large, ambient room? Condenser Microphones
Old 16th May 2016
  #1
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Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

Has anyone recorded a vocalist in a large, ambient room?

I am sure the answer to the Q in the thread title is 'yes'; I cant for the life of me imagine that nobody has ever done this.

Who here has ever recorded a vocalist in a large-ish, ambient space? Think Avatar Studios or similar - ambient, but not a huge space with a ton of tail. All of the vocalists I have recorded were always in a voc booth, small room, bedroom, etc. I have always wondered what would be if you had a really good vocalist, in a great sounding large space, with some great pres, a (for ex) U47, and a couple of room mics (dare I say C12s?) put far to the back to capture the ambience, which then gets mixed in later.

Who here has done this, and what type of results did you get?
Old 16th May 2016
  #2
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Fruition2k's Avatar
 

Is this what you're thinking? And you'll also see Bruce's technique of having Michael move back and layering to capture reflections etc. Bruce mentions this on a thread here in GS.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53T7XC__kZk
Old 16th May 2016
  #3
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I'm doing something recently with a ku4/op-6 up front for voice, and 4 ccm41's (double ortf) a bit back, that way I can fix the unruly ambience without the listener feeling distant. This also allows a lot of flexibility dealing with echo/delays and frequency nodal problems of the room. BTW gives very good old school/new school feel.
Old 16th May 2016
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fruition2k View Post
Is this what you're thinking?[/url]
Kinda-sorta. But not for layering takes to create depth - more for just a lead vocal. Cool idea there, tho.
Old 16th May 2016
  #5
I made a record in a beautiful-sounding but very reverberant church a few years ago - drums and all. When it came to vocals, we used an sE Reflection Filter around the main mic (47) and then used a stereo mic around 15 feet back from her as a room ambience mic. The result was dramatic and beautiful, but there's no way you're going to get the room out of the close mic, so you have to make sure you want it there!

In this instance I think it's really important to get a good close mic that has a beautiful-sounding off-axis response because, no matter how much you try, you'll never get all the room out of the vocal mic - especially since you're going to compress and limit and automate and parallel etc in the mix. You've also got to remember that the ambience from your close mic will be mono and will limit how little ambience you can bleed in from your room mics. The upside is DEPTH - glorious, beautiful 3D DEPTH!

Will agree with some others here though - it can give you a wonderful old-school vibe with new-school close mic sound, which I adore, and I still like the sound of that record. Sometimes it's nice to have something you don't have much control over and have to find a way to make it work with the material.

NB: I was at Avatar in November last year and those rooms really aren't that reverby!
Old 16th May 2016
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by TonyD View Post
I made a record in a beautiful-sounding but very reverberant church a few years ago - drums and all.
Tony, would you be able to share a link to that album? I'd love to hear it.

I've gotten some great results recording minimal singer-songwriter material in churches and reverberant spaces. You can listen to an example below:



I used a VM1 about a foot away from the artist, and a pair of DPA omnis about 10 feet back and 6 feet apart. No acoustic treatment, just the singer in the middle of the church. The Brauner has a great off-axis response, but in the future I'd like to use some broadband absorption behind the artist to take some reverb out of that signal; as Tony pointed out, the reverb from your vocal mic is going to be mono, and I prefer the reverb to be a stereo signal. I don't think I'd use absorption in front of the vocalist, as that would muffle the sound going out into the room. In hindsight, I should have spaced the omnis even wider (10'-20' apart). The idea with that is to have the reverb signal be completely decorrelated down to the bass frequencies so there's no mono signal interfering with your main mic. I'd recommend using omnis as room mics, as you won't experience bass roll-off with distance.

I'm a huge fan of the sound, but if you're used to recording in a treated space, you might find it limiting (unless you own portable broadband traps). The most important choice you can make is the venue, making sure that the reverb length matches the tempo & dynamics of your music. The biggest advantages of recording in a large space are that you can get far away from the walls (to avoid early reflections/comb filtering) and that the room modes are often infrasonic.

Last edited by [email protected]; 16th May 2016 at 09:27 PM..
Old 16th May 2016
  #7
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Funny Cat's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
Tony, would you be able to share a link to that album? I'd love to hear it.

I've gotten some great results recording minimal singer-songwriter material in churches and reverberant spaces. You can listen to an example below:



I used a VM1 about a foot away from the artist, and a pair of DPA omnis about 10 feet back and 6 feet apart. No acoustic treatment, just the singer in the middle of the church. The Brauner has a great off-axis response, but in the future I'd like to use some broadband absorption behind the artist to take some reverb out of that signal; as Tony pointed out, the reverb from your vocal mic is going to be mono, and I prefer the reverb to be a stereo signal. I don't think I'd use absorption in front of the vocalist, as that would muffle the sound going out into the room. In hindsight, I should have spaced the omnis even wider (10'-20' apart). The idea with that is to have the reverb signal be completely decorrelated down to the bass frequencies so there's no mono signal interfering with your main mic. I'd recommend using omnis as room mics, as you won't experience bass roll-off with distance.

I'm a huge fan of the sound, but if you're used to recording in a treated space, you might find it limiting (unless you own portable broadband traps). The most important choice you can make is the venue, making sure that the reverb length matches the tempo & dynamics of your music. The biggest advantages of recording in a large space are that you can get far away from the walls (to avoid early reflections/comb filtering) and that the room modes are often infrasonic.

That sounds fantastic. Love this open, yet intimate sound. Noticed you are in Boulder? Whereabouts? Sending you a PM now.
Old 18th May 2016
  #8
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
Tony, would you be able to share a link to that album? I'd love to hear it.

I've gotten some great results recording minimal singer-songwriter material in churches and reverberant spaces. You can listen to an example below:



I used a VM1 about a foot away from the artist, and a pair of DPA omnis about 10 feet back and 6 feet apart. No acoustic treatment, just the singer in the middle of the church. The Brauner has a great off-axis response, but in the future I'd like to use some broadband absorption behind the artist to take some reverb out of that signal; as Tony pointed out, the reverb from your vocal mic is going to be mono, and I prefer the reverb to be a stereo signal. I don't think I'd use absorption in front of the vocalist, as that would muffle the sound going out into the room. In hindsight, I should have spaced the omnis even wider (10'-20' apart). The idea with that is to have the reverb signal be completely decorrelated down to the bass frequencies so there's no mono signal interfering with your main mic. I'd recommend using omnis as room mics, as you won't experience bass roll-off with distance.

I'm a huge fan of the sound, but if you're used to recording in a treated space, you might find it limiting (unless you own portable broadband traps). The most important choice you can make is the venue, making sure that the reverb length matches the tempo & dynamics of your music. The biggest advantages of recording in a large space are that you can get far away from the walls (to avoid early reflections/comb filtering) and that the room modes are often infrasonic.
This is a great recording. Thanks for sharing!
Old 18th May 2016
  #9
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Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

Agreed with those two dudes ^^ - great recording!
Old 18th May 2016
  #10
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The cowboy junkies trinity sessions was recorded in an old church with one mic.
Old 18th May 2016
  #11
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Motoxxx's Avatar
 

Daniel, I agree with the others...fantastic recording..Really nicely done.
Old 18th May 2016
  #12
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Of course, people should not accept any rules. And if you have access, or can go to a cool space, why don't you do it? One of our problems today is that we produce too much along the a-z textbook of music production. Keep in dry and use artificial reverb, and such ideas. What the heck do we think? How can we still make a difference?
Old 18th May 2016
  #13
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Large, ambient room?

Best case scenario by far IMO.

You could do anything there.

Close miking will give you dryer results, but with a beautiful tail.
Which you can kill with absorption, but please try without that first!

Backing off will really take advantage of the large space, obviously.

And the larger the room, the less acoustic treatment is needed.
There'll be fewer large peaks, nulls and other trouble.
There's a much better chance of good sound from the get go than in a small room.

Yes, early reflections come later, but you can move towards a wall if you want them sooner.
You can basically bury the Bricasti.

Quote:
All of the vocalists I have recorded were always in a voc booth, small room, bedroom, etc.
Vocal booths should be forbidden IMO.
Old 18th May 2016
  #14
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BTW, this thread reminds me of the one about Clapton recording an album with real musicians, playing simultaneously in one room.


That's of course how it all started.

And early recording studio's were rather large and had a sound to them.

Churches are a couple of steps beyond that, though.
But great for certain applications.
Old 18th May 2016
  #15
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I'm sort of surprised that no one (perhaps someone did, I sort of blasted through the comments) has mentioned the problems of recording in a large ambient space.

There are two big problems; 1) air handling noise, and 2) traffic noise.

Every big space recording I've had the pleasure to record has had significant air handling noise that needed treatment from iZotope RX to be useable. Many big spaces are close to auto traffic, and that stuff sorta kills the big space vibe. (I had an ambulance charge by a church where I was recording a live session. RX helped, but the ambulance was still sorta in there...)

One popular medium-large space in my area brags about their LED lighting system. And it looks pretty good... Except, there are cooling fans on the lights that can't be defeated! And there is a roar any time the stage lights are on. The guy responsible for the purchase and installation thinks the roar is not a problem.

Big spaces sound pretty cool. But sometimes, close micing the vocalist and using a high-dollar reverb for the ambient content sounds better, makes more sense and saves a ton of time. YMMV
Old 18th May 2016
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post

I've gotten some great results recording minimal singer-songwriter material in churches and reverberant spaces. You can listen to an example below:


Very nice!

I did a similar album a few years back, where we tracked almost all of it in a big reverberant church. (I guess Bandcamp embeds don't work here?) For the lead vocals I used an SM7 up close, as well as a pair of condensers about 10 ft back/up and then another pair way up in the balcony.



There was definitely plenty of ambient noise in the place, HVAC, wood creaking etc., but we just let it happen. Worth it for using the acoustics of the place. Used no artificial verb on the whole album, except for the few overdubs that we had to do elsewhere.

There was also one track on that album that we tracked live (just solo cello/vox) in a crazy concrete stairwell. Fun stuff.
Old 18th May 2016
  #17
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Hard to argue with someone who declares that noise on a recording is worth it.

I'm glad you are happy. :face palm:

No artificial reverb... except where there was artificial reverb. :face palm:

Good for you.
Old 18th May 2016
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by studiostuff View Post
I'm sort of surprised that no one (perhaps someone did, I sort of blasted through the comments) has mentioned the problems of recording in a large ambient space.

There are two big problems; 1) air handling noise, and 2) traffic noise.

Every big space recording I've had the pleasure to record has had significant air handling noise that needed treatment from iZotope RX to be useable. Many big spaces are close to auto traffic, and that stuff sorta kills the big space vibe. (I had an ambulance charge by a church where I was recording a live session. RX helped, but the ambulance was still sorta in there...)

One popular medium-large space in my area brags about their LED lighting system. And it looks pretty good... Except, there are cooling fans on the lights that can't be defeated! And there is a roar any time the stage lights are on. The guy responsible for the purchase and installation thinks the roar is not a problem.

Big spaces sound pretty cool. But sometimes, close micing the vocalist and using a high-dollar reverb for the ambient content sounds better, makes more sense and saves a ton of time. YMMV

I hear you.
And everything in life can have its drawbacks.

But I'll add FWIW that acoustic treatment is not the same as isolation and both large and small rooms can be near traffic.

Obviously there are many more small rooms than there are large rooms.
And if isolation from traffic is needed, a small room is quicker and cheaper to to isolate. (Acoustic treatment is a different story, though.)
So it's no surprise where the path of least resistance lies or may seem to lie.
But that wasn't the question.
Old 18th May 2016
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jared Paul View Post
Very nice!

I did a similar album a few years back, where we tracked almost all of it in a big reverberant church. (I guess Bandcamp embeds don't work here?)
That's a beautiful space; performing in that church must have been an incredible experience for your artist. I'm really digging this music.

Quote:
Originally Posted by studiostuff View Post
Hard to argue with someone who declares that noise on a recording is worth it.
I'm sure the people using vintage/ribbon mics with high self-noise would argue that the sound is worth it; likewise, the experience of performing in a reverberant space can absolutely be worth the imperfections that come with it. It just comes down to priorities.

My SOP is to record 1-5 seconds of room tone between takes so that I can remove steady-state noise in post. Traffic noise/sirens are harder to mitigate, so I tend to favor spaces outside the downtown areas and record after work hours.
Old 19th May 2016
  #20
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PatrickFaith's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by studiostuff View Post
I'm sort of surprised that no one (perhaps someone did, I sort of blasted through the comments) has mentioned the problems of recording in a large ambient space.

There are two big problems; 1) air handling noise, and 2) traffic noise.

Every big space recording I've had the pleasure to record has had significant air handling noise that needed treatment from iZotope RX to be useable. Many big spaces are close to auto traffic, and that stuff sorta kills the big space vibe. (I had an ambulance charge by a church where I was recording a live session. RX helped, but the ambulance was still sorta in there...)

One popular medium-large space in my area brags about their LED lighting system. And it looks pretty good... Except, there are cooling fans on the lights that can't be defeated! And there is a roar any time the stage lights are on. The guy responsible for the purchase and installation thinks the roar is not a problem.

Big spaces sound pretty cool. But sometimes, close micing the vocalist and using a high-dollar reverb for the ambient content sounds better, makes more sense and saves a ton of time. YMMV
That's a good tip on using RX, I do the same and didn't mention it. I btw also record at 96 khz, not because I need to for the music, but to remove the noise with RX5 running in a 96khz protools session. I also will have a touch of fab filter gates and Q2, to remove some edge from my ribbon mics which are so sensitive they are like a magnet for room noise.
Old 19th May 2016
  #21
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Like this?

Old 19th May 2016
  #22
Gear Head
A fellow recording engineer recommended a Sennheiser MD441 if you want to avoid too much room. Or cross talk from other sources.
The results were great.
Best
Tobi
Old 19th May 2016
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjblair View Post
Like this?



Poor sods.



Of course they didn't know any better at the time.
Old 19th May 2016
  #24
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The bigger the space the easier it is to get a reflection-free vocal recording in my experience.

Some booths can be hard work, I've done vocal overdubs in some really big reverberant spaces (barns, churches) and you absolutely cannot hear the space unless you add in room mics. With most booths, you can hear the room no matter how you arrange the singer/mic. Fine if you want that sound but a nightmare if you don't.
Old 19th May 2016
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexK View Post
The bigger the space the easier it is to get a reflection-free vocal recording in my experience.

Some booths can be hard work, I've done vocal overdubs in some really big reverberant spaces (barns, churches) and you absolutely cannot hear the space unless you add in room mics. With most booths, you can hear the room no matter how you arrange the singer/mic. Fine if you want that sound but a nightmare if you don't.
This, exactly. You can put up 2 gobos in a big room and get a "dry" sound that would take thousands of dollars of treatment to recreate in a small space.
Old 20th May 2016
  #26
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20 years ago I built the final house to "see me out". It's primary design feature is a 40 by 24 ft great room with a 23 ft tall 12/12 pitch celing. The north side houses a galley, a dinning area, with an 8x4 ft. brick chimney in the center along with a large living space on the south side side. The celing and floor are wood and three sides are mostly glass. This 15,000 cubic ft. great room was designed to accodomate Bluegrass and Americana jam sessions and at the time I had no plans to move my recording activities into a home based project studio. Within two years I discovered my GT. RM. was the best space for me to capture acoustic music of all kinds; Jazz, Bluegrass and old time, Gospel and Folk ballads. I went on a 15 year journey, like many of us, in quest of the most effective mics, pres, interface and DAW for my recordings and two years ago decided to use the abundance of natural light my tracking room afforded for video capture. Over the past 45 years I have spent way too much time in "over treated rubber rooms" and now that I am in the final chapter of a long recording career I am convinced A large irregular shaped room with varied early reflection possibilities and predictable tails is the best way to go. Learn the mic, location and orientation for various players and after you turn off the air handler and fridge you are home free.
See recent video [email protected] <mountain music machine> web site.
Hugh
Old 20th May 2016
  #27
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Large rooms are good but need to be designed / have their acoustics tuned. There is an acoustics "forgiveness factor" that comes with using over 5000 cubic feet of space. The early days of recording used large very expensive purpose built rooms. Economics over time forced the use of much smaller rooms with extremely poor isolation specs and horrible acoustics.

Use all the rooms you have available along with simple acoustics tricks to get the best results. Experiment and test.
Old 20th May 2016
  #28
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Funny Cat's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jjblair View Post
Like this?


Quote:
Originally Posted by legato View Post
Poor sods.



Of course they didn't know any better at the time.

I love how they have linoleum floors, like (3) acoustic panels on the walls (that we can see) and no gobos to isolate the musicians. That must have been a terrible sounding record.
Old 20th May 2016
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Funny Cat View Post
I love how they have linoleum floors, like (3) acoustic panels on the walls (that we can see) and no gobos to isolate the musicians. That must have been a terrible sounding record.
Those appear to be cigarette butt's all over the floor too, ohh the horror of it all !
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